July 26, 2022

Argentinian Empanadas & Wine Pairings

One of the my most favorite comfort foods is an empanada. My father’s family hails from Buenos Aires, Argentina, and empanadas are a staple on the table. They’re regularly enjoyed on the go, and if you go to a friend’s house for an asado (our word for BBQ), empanadas are most certainly going to be the first course for everyone to enjoy while the meat cooks on the parrilla, or outdoor grill.

Empanadas are not unique to Argentina. Many Latin American countries (and other countries around the world) have their own version of a turnover made from pastry dough and stuffed with savory fillings. Empanadas are named from the Spanish verb “empanar” which means “to wrap or coat in bread or dough.” In Argentina, empanadas are a way of life. Depending on the region you are from, they can be either baked or fried. For the record, baked is the only way to go. Told you, they’re a way of life. Almost a religion with fierce loyalty to the style and the flavors you grew up with.

I have memories of making empanadas in the kitchen with my grandmother (Nana) and also my stepmom. Preparing the various filling in large mixing bowls and creating a sort of assembly line to put them all together and prepare them for baking. Nowadays, I don’t make empanadas from scratch very often. And like most ethnic foods you grow up on, finding options that remind you of home can be tough. I’ve tried a few empanadas locally here in LA and have always been sorely disappointed. But I recently tried empanadas from Catalina’s Market in Hollywood and was SO impressed. These are the closest empanadas I’ve tasted to what I grew up on and what I’ve had in Argentina. I highly recommend a visit. Catalina’s is a Latin American market with food and products from many Central and South American countries.

As you would expect, once I found these amazing empanadas, I had to pair some wines with them! Below are a few of my favorite pairings I pulled together for my empanada and wine night!

 

Empanada: Spinach (or pasqualina)

Wine Pairing: Mosmieri Kakhuri 2017 Premium Amber Dry (Georgia) $20

One of my most favorite empanadas. This is our version of a spinach and feta turnover. This empanada is obviously savory and has some bitter notes from the greens (spinach) and the tart cheese. A perfect companion here is an orange wine, which is similarly bitter. This is the “like with like” food and wine pairing principle to pair things together with similar characteristics. I received this wine a couple years back from a wine “secret Santa” group I belong to. This was the perfect opportunity to pull it out! And it’s a weird one! A wine from Georgia. The country, not the state. Georgia is considered the cradle of wine civilization. They have been making wine for thousands of years. Here we have an amber or orange wine from Mosmieri. To understand what an orange wine is, you first need to start with a white wine. White wine is made with little to no skin contact during fermentation. If the winemaker decides to keep the skins in contact during fermentation for an extended period of time, we end up with a wine that gives an amber/orange color. Warning! Some orange wines, especially orange wines from Georgia, can be really, really funky. I’m talking funktastic voyage. This one is actually quite quaffable and totally still taste like wine. I dig it. And it worked perfectly with the empanada de pasqualina. BUY HERE

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Empanada: Corn (or humita)

Wine Pairing: Ruhlmann Pinot Gris 2020 (Alsace, France) $17

Another classic empanada filling is corn. This is a very simple and humble empanada with only the corn plus some simple seasonings and spices. The whisper of sweetness in this slightly off-dry Ruhlmann Pinot Gris really brought out the sweetness in the corn filling. There’s that “like with like” food and wine pairing principle again!

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Empanada: Chicken

Wine Pairing: Thacher Winery Own-Rooted Chenin Blanc 2020 (Paso Robles, CA) $36

Chicken empanadas include shredded chicken, onion, bell pepper, and various seasonings. I loved this empanada with the Thacher Chenin Blanc. Thacher is a low-intervention winery, meaning not much is done in terms of winemaking and grapes and terroir are to speak for themselves. They’re part of what I call “new school Paso” and focus on making wines that are lower in alcohol, have higher acidity, and use different grapes than the usual suspects. Chenin Blanc is a white grape from the Loire Valley in France that gives very different expressions depending on where it is grown. Here we get a really nice green fruit note, moving into tropical. This is the perfect summer porch pounder and paired famously with the chicken empanada. Unfortunately, this bottle appears to be sold out, but hopefully the next vintage arrives soon!

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Empanada: Spicy Chicken

Wine Pairing: Vinos Lechuza Pluma 2020 (Valle de Guadalupe, Baja Mexico) $30

As it sounds, this is the same chicken empanada, but with quite a bit of heat to it. A tough thing to pair, for sure. I decided to go with a chillable red. I wanted to something that would stand up to the robust flavors, but would also cool your mouth down a bit from the spice. This wine hit it like a nail on the head! Vinos Lechuza’s claim to fame is that their wines are served at French Laundry in Napa Valley. Thomas Keller discovered the Vinos Lechuza wines while in Cabo San Lucas, and subsequently added them to his French Laundry wine list. This is a 100% unfiltered Nebbiolo meant to be served chilled. Trust me, it’s delicious. And before you try this wine, suspend all thoughts about Nebbiolo from Piemonte. This wine appears to be sold out, but hopefully the next vintage will arrive soon!

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Empanada: Beef

Wine Pairing: Catena Zapata Malbec 2019 (Mendoza, Argentina) $20

Saved the best for last. The beef empanada is the most popular and the most prolific throughout Argentina. And every region has their own specific recipe with the most important distinction being: do you include raisins in the filling or not. This one did NOT have raisins in it, but I do love me a beef empanada with raisins in it, for the record! What else to pair with the most classic empanada than the most classic Argentinian wine: Malbec; especially thiss one from classic producer Catena Zapata. This wine serves up Plums, violets, chocolate. A notch up from the basic $10 grocery store Malbecs. BUY HERE

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I hope you enjoyed this post. If you’re looking to Up Your Wine Game and Drink Better, consider booking a private in-person or virtual wine tasting experience.
Brianne Cohen Wine Educator
Brianne Cohen is a certified sommelier, wine educator, consultant, and writer based out of Los Angeles.

Since March 2020, Brianne has educated and entertained over 5,000 people through her “Virtual Vino” online wine tastings.

Brianne holds the WSET (Wine & Spirits Education Trust) Diploma certificate, one of the most coveted wine certifications in the world. When she’s not helping others Up Their Wine Game, she can be found judging at international wine competitions.

Brianne aims to make wine approachable and conversational, to surprise and delight with unexpected, distinctive wine finds, and to give people knowledge (and confidence) about wine in their everyday lives.

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As a wine writer, I frequently accept samples for review on my  website and on my social media channels. Please contact me at brianne@briannecohen.com to discuss sending samples for review. I promise to always be honorable with the samples. I will evaluate all wines in good tasting settings and with no distractions.

All reviews are my opinions, and mine only. Because of the volume of samples I receive, I cannot promise that all samples received will be reviewed, but I will do my best.

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